Plastic sheets include any flat, continuous piece of plastic material that is relatively stiff. These materials can be thin, but are generally more substantial than plastic film, which can be rolled and manipulated without any specialized equipment.
If you work with plastics regularly, you’re likely quite familiar with the basic qualities of plastic sheets. However, many industry professionals are so comfortable with the specific materials they already use, that they may not dedicate much thought to what goes into producing plastic sheets or all the different material options available for different purposes or use cases.
Whether you’re just getting involved with the powerful world of plastics or are already very familiar with the qualities of specific plastic sheets, here’s a guide to the elements you may not have considered.
How Plastic Sheets Are Made
There are a huge array of plastic materials available today. So the specific processes and polymers used may vary slightly. However, the basics are fairly consistent across many popular plastic sheet products.
Thermoplastics include popular materials like acrylic and polycarbonate, which can be easily molded or melted when heated to a specific degree, though the melting point of each polymer varies. These thermoplastics often start as liquid polymers that are squeezed through a tiny slit for casting. This process is often completed in bulk with multiple cooling rows filled at one time. Once the molds cool down, the plastic is solid and can be removed from the rows, leaving stiff sheets of the same size and material. This process can be completed for plastic sheets of various gauges and dimensions. These stock sizes can also be cut, shaped, and machined once they’re produced.
Applications of Plastic Sheets
Plastic sheets can be used for a huge array of applications, especially once they’re cut to size, routed, and machined to suit the needs of specific industries. Though the specific applications are nearly endless, here are some of top industries that use these materials regularly:
- Aerospace: Plastic sheets are incredibly lightweight, making them ideal for use in various interior components of airplanes, like bulkheads and seating features.
- Military: Strong plastics like polycarbonate offer impact resistance strong enough to provide ballistic protection for armored vehicle glass and windshields.
- Transportation: Plastic can be used in various automotive interior components. It’s also especially popular in mass transit vehicles for features like operator protection and barriers.
- Construction: Plastics serve a huge array of purposes in the construction industry, from skylights and greenhouses to templates for major features like kitchen countertops.
- Signage: Many plastics can be printed, produced in various colors, and formed into specific shapes, making them ideal for signs and displays for retail businesses and trade shows.
- Manufacturing: Plastic is durable enough for use in wear strips, conveying equipment, and even heavy machinery used to move products around industrial facilities.
- Packaging: Plastic sheets can be integrated into actual packaging, as well as the conveying equipment used at packaging facilities.
Benefits of Plastic Sheets
Every type of plastic offers its own set of benefits for specific industries and applications. For example, polycarbonate provides extreme impact resistance, while HDPE offers very low water absorption. So there are advantages of specific products that go above and beyond the qualities listed here, but these are some of the most prominent reasons why people choose to work with plastic sheets in general.
Since there are so many types of plastic sheets available, it is an incredibly versatile material that’s well-suited for numerous applications. Basic sheets can even be cut to size, produced in various colors and finishes, and thermoformed into various shapes. So it’s much easier to customize plastics to the needs of each project than it is to manipulate other strong materials like metal and wood.
Most plastics are also incredibly durable, with different benefits for different types of plastics. Some provide chemical resistance, while others are well suited for standing up against friction.
When compared to other strong materials like metal and glass, plastics are very lightweight. This makes them easy to handle and transport. It also makes them attractive for automotive and aerospace applications where keeping weight down can make high-powered systems more efficient.
Since plastic sheets can be produced and customized at scale, it also tends to be a fairly cost-effective material. This varies depending on the type of plastic and what value-added services are needed, but it does tend to be an affordable alternative to other options like metal.
Plastic Sheet Trends
The plastic sheets market is currently very strong. It’s grown significantly over the past several years and is expected to continue on that trajectory. The benefits listed above, along with the efficient processes and customization options available have contributed to this growth across an array of different industries served.
The pandemic also made a major impact on the demand for plastic sheets. These materials were often used as sneeze guards, face shields, and protective barriers in medical facilities and essential businesses. As organizations begin adjusting to their new normal, many of these safety features are likely to remain, and facilities are continuing to find new ways to make their spaces safer for everyone.
The plastics industry has of course felt the effects of supply chain issues and economic disruptions just like every other business in 2022. However, the ease of producing, transporting, and customizing large amounts of plastic sheets at scale make this product still widely available for many industries across the world.
If you’re looking for any plastic sheets for your operations in 2022, Polymershapes can meet your needs. We carry an extensive inventory, from polycarbonate to UHMW to nylon. Our knowledgeable team can help you choose the right options and even connect you with value-added conversion services to ensure you get the exact materials, dimensions, and finishes to suit the needs of your industry. Visit our website to find your local facility and browse plastic sheet options.